Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Friday, January 27, 2006


“I know its midnight, but I need you to go down to Woodridge. Mark can’t make the new technology work, so you gotta get the old stuff from the office and run it down there. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Aw. Okay. I’ll do it.”

“I appreciate it. Take some time off tomorrow. You’ve already worked since eight this morning. Save me some overtime pay, wouldja?”


I had too much pride to ask for toll or gas money. I’d lost my debit card and was out of cash. I figured I’d just hit the grocery store and overwrite a check, pick up some snacks, and all would be well. Wrong. All three grocery stores nearby were closed, so I crossed my fingers and hopped on 355 to head down to Woodridge.

I’ve done this before. Last time, they gave me a little pink envelope at the tollbooth, and I sent in a check for eighty cents. No big deal. I might have a problem at the unmanned exit ramp booths, but there was certainly loose change floating in my car for those.

Wrong and wrong again. I got to the first at Army Trail and told the hag in the booth my situation. I requested an envelope.

“It doesn’t work like that anymore, hon. Its open tolling now.”

What the hell does “open tolling” mean? I didn’t ask.

“Okay, so what do I do? I can’t turn around here. Exit at the next ramp?”

“No. Jesus, another one. Nobody ever learns. Here’s the fix, kid. It’s a ticket now. I take down your plate number, send this to the sheriff’s department, and you send in this envelope with the fee.”

“How much is it? Twenty-five bucks?”

“Hah. Try eighty.”

I didn’t bother to stop at the booths after that. Illinois has an automated tolling system called iPass, which has several lanes at each booth dedicated to no-stop tolling. I blew through several of them. Six, to be exact. Or, in cash $480. Fuck a fucking duck and make it quack in agony.

I looked for grocery stores in Woodridge. My gas tank was running perilously low. I found a Jewel Osco, grabbed a bunch of grossly overpriced groceries, and went to the checkout.

“Sorry, but you’re unverified. We can only take a check in the exact amount, no overwrites.”


Of course. I got on the highway going the wrong way due to my preoccupation with the gas tank situation. I had to go five miles further south before I could exit and return to the northbound lanes. That’s how my blown toll count went from four to six.

I actually made it off the highway and within three miles of home before I ran out of gas. I had to call a friend for help. All of this is my fault, of course, for being hopelessly scatterbrained.

I’m such a dumb asshole.

One of my friends is having a much worse week. Her father just died. He was fifty-nine. She said “I had a bad feeling when I was there the night before. He was sick. I should’ve stayed. I could’ve helped him, prevented this.”

“You can’t go on blaming yourself. What would he say? Would he want you to feel this way?”

“No, he’d say ‘fuck the world and party on.’”

“There you go.”

“I’m angry right now, but I gotta write up a eulogy to deliver at the funeral. Will you help? I’m emotionally fucked up and I don’t want to write something too crazy.”

“Sure. I’ll stop by tomorrow after work.”

I am such a great guy.

More of the serial story next week. Sorry for the delay. I haven't been around much this week.
11:10 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


January 27, 2006 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anita said...

Damn Steve, that drags. All of it. $80!! Bastards. Sorry to hear about your friend's Dad, although that doesn't mean your situation isn't any less relevant. The cool thing here is that you're Steve - and we like to read Steve.

January 29, 2006 12:00 PM, Blogger Wino McHackenpuke said...

Good to see you're writing again, Steve! You've been gone for SO long!

No, wait...I was gone.

Guess what! I updated Walking Blues with a little (true) story about my cat's testicles!

I told you his name was Steve, I think. It's a great layed-back name, you and him have.

January 30, 2006 11:46 AM, Blogger Bookfraud said...

another great post of life on tollways, snaks, etc. it's good to be reading you again. don't ask why i left...

January 30, 2006 2:49 PM, Blogger r-e-n spells ren but i'm raw said...

well written. sorry about all the drama.

January 30, 2006 2:57 PM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

Fucking toll booths. And no overtime pay to help out!

Good to see you back man.

February 01, 2006 1:09 PM, Blogger karen gsteiger said...

Ouch...I had no idea the tollroads were so merciless.


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